Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Reed Gusciora and Jamel Holley allowing victims suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to qualify for the use of medical marijuana was approved 55-14-7 by the full Assembly on Thursday.
“Veterans – especially post-9/11 veterans – are the group most affected by PTSD,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “The VA has stated that it wants each veteran to find the medication with the least amount of side effects that allows them the optimum level of independence. For many, medical marijuana is the drug that best fits that criteria and the only one to provide veterans with significant relief from the anxiety associated with PTSD.”
The bill (A-457) would add post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to the list of debilitating medical conditions that would qualify a patient to participate in the state’s medical marijuana program.
“For many veterans, the effects of PTSD are not always healed by time and can be lasting and profound,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “When it comes to PTSD, medical marijuana holds the promise of providing significant relief as it does for many other illnesses and conditions that are not easily treatable with traditional medication.”
PTSD is a mental health condition that is triggered by a traumatic event such as a physical or sexual assault, childhood neglect or physical abuse, a natural disaster, exposure to combat, or other extreme or life-threatening events. Symptoms can include flashbacks, nightmares, severe anxiety, uncontrollable thoughts about the event, emotional distress, physical symptoms, feelings of numbness or detachment, engaging in dangerous or self-destructive behavior, and experiencing suicidal thoughts.
“Statistics show that roughly one out of five military personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan have experienced PTSD,” said Gusciora (D-Mercer/Hunterdon). “Meanwhile, medical marijuana has been reported to alleviate many of the debilitating side effects of PTSD without the anesthetizing quality of many traditional medications. Given PTSD’s prevalent and debilitating nature, we should be doing whatever we can to help victims cope and overcome it.”
“New Jersey is home to an estimated 428,000 veterans, with as many as 20 percent of them suffering from PTSD,” said Holley (D-Union). “If medical marijuana holds the promise of helping more veterans overcome combat-related trauma and assimilate back into civilian life, we should be helping, not hindering that.”
To qualify for medical marijuana, the patient’s PTSD symptoms would have to be resistant to conventional medical therapy, which generally combines psychotherapy with antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications. To be authorized for use of medical marijuana, the patient would have to meet the other requirements of the New Jersey Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act as well, including obtaining certification of the patient’s condition from a physician with whom the patient has a bona fide physician-patient relationship.
The bill now awaits consideration by the Senate.